Songbirds of China
The keeping of Songbirds has been a cultural tradition among the Chinese since the Qing Dynasty.
While this tradition seems to be dying out among the younger generations today, you can still witness the remnants of this long standing pastime at various parks and gardens throughout China. In Hong Kong, Yuen Po Street Bird Garden is one such place.
Early in the morning men gather with their covered birdcages in tow. The cages are covered so as not to rouse the birds too early, and hung on perches throughout the garden. One by one the covers are removed so the birds can socialize – yes, that’s right “socialize” – and sing-in the morning.
Amidst the “recreational areas,” are a variety of shops selling beautifully hand-crafted cages, something worth considering as a gift/souvenir (even if it remains bird-free).
As an animal lover be warned, a walk through the garden, while interesting from a cultural perspective, can cause some upset; because of course, among the shops selling cages, are also shops selling birds.
In many cases, there were an appropriate allotment of birds per cage (if there can be such a thing) with only one or two finches/larks/canaries in each cage. However, as I neared the end of the garden it was disconcerting to observe some very large birds held in cages barely big enough to hold them or too many birds stuffed into one cage.
As depressing as this is, I suppose the silver lining – if there is to be one- is that the birds that are purchased are well taken care of by their owners. The proper care of songbirds is an intricate part of this long standing tradition and a point of pride among the owners. The birds are bathed, “walked,” and fed healthy meals daily. After all, an unhappy bird won’t sing.